Sunday, April 20, 2008

Serving Soup Like Dorothy Day

“We’re all characters. There’s a lot of joy and humor.”

The Franciscan friar listened with interest, as Joanne Lockwood spoke of the interaction between guests and volunteers at the soup kitchen.

“We have ladies close to their 80s” who earnestly volunteer every week. “There’s a man who volunteers in the dining room, who I’ve seen pull out the chairs for guests, as if we were a 4-star restaurant. There are volunteers who sit down with some guests while they eat, chatting and laughing.”

Joanne was making her remarks to fellow Secular Franciscans during their monthly fraternity gathering Sunday afternoon in St. Joseph-St. Patrick Parish Center.

The friar, a spiritual advisor for the fraternity, and a veteran of New York City soup kitchens and shelters, then took note of a comment by Betty Frank that the atmosphere of the soup kitchen has become “very Franciscan,” and not just on Wednesdays, when the fraternity staffs the operation.

Joanne is convinced that “the Holy Spirit really is at work here,” and that “nothing would happen without prayer.”

“There’s so much. It takes so many people to make this work. Yet it all comes together. Like it says in the Bible, there are many parts, but one body.”

The friar, Fr. Kevin Kenny, OFM Conv., then offered his congratulations to the fraternity and the parish, and commented that their soup kitchen ministry reminded him of Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement and now a Servant of God (the first step to sainthood in the Catholic Church).

In fact, Father Kevin, who is director of the National Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine and Indian Museum in Fonda, is a proponent of Dorothy Day’s non-judgmental approach – “you identify with everyone,” even those you may think are undeserving.

Like that other saint who started quite a movement himself – Francis of Assisi.